When a good vacation goes bad

We had this really simple idea – we’d rent a car, pack up kids and tent and go camping for a few days. It’s not like we’d never done it before, the camping part.  We even brought our sleeping bags and tent to Ireland with us.  So we could do this.

Granted, I’m  not a big camper.  We never ever camped further than our own backyard when I was a kid.  But Josh’s family have been big campers, so he has a clue.  And the few times we have gone camping as a family, it’s gone well.  Which is why the kids haven’t been opposed to the idea before now.

Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And as money’s a little tight (we have to buy like 300 euros worth of uniform pieces for Sean, plus books for Sean and Mim), we thought “Hey, we can save money by renting a sedan for Phoebe and the kids, Josh can ride is motorcycle.”  We looked up some campground sites, my dear friend Jenn S. sent marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers, so we had makings for s’mores, the plans were all good.

You know what they say about plans…

It first started when we picked up the rental car (remember, we don’t own one just yet here).  It was small by sedan sizes.  And we were hit with extra charges – like “adding a second driver” charge.  sigh.  Oh well.  We sucked it up, decided it was roomier than it looked and drove it home.  Where we then re-evaluated what we were going to take with us, got ruthless, and managed to fit camping gear and kids into the car thanks to creative packing and a couple Space Bags, we were good to go.

Of course, because of all the hullabaloo with packing, Maura was wired.  Granted, she also thought we were going to the beach, and had been wearing a bathing suit and goggles, which I made her change out of before getting in the car, so she wasn’t happy with us at all.  I may have said at one point to my darling girl “Oh for God’s sake!  Could you please shut up already!”  But only because her constantly screaming over things was causing me to lose my concentration driving.  When we stopped for gas, Josh bought her a bag of chips, which calmed her down…which looking back, makes me wonder if we forgot to feed the girl lunch with our flurry of packing.  It is possible.  Being hungry makes her cranky.  As we left the gas station, she started asking loudly for “M” – McDonald’s.  I’m not sure why.  There wasn’t one anywhere around.  But she wanted “M”, which led to more loudness in the back and maybe me calling out to the entire Holy Family for help. A few miles down the road, we did stop to eat, which made Maura happy and led to a delightful moment when Collin was certain he’d lost the key to the car only to have it in his pocket the whole time

And that was a good point of our journey.

After that, we hit what Americans would refer to as back roads and Irish refer to as roads.  Including one called Corkscrew Hill or the like, where it was like doing figure eights up a hill with really sharp corners.  Which lead Collin to announce “Mom, Sean says he has to throw up.”  Which lead to me pulling into someone’s driveway because there is no shoulder on these roads.  Sean made the rest of the journey on the back of Josh’s motorcycle (Josh brought a second helmet, just in case.  Smart man.)

We finally got to the campgrounds with enough daylight left to pitch the tent.  We chose a corner spot, thinking it would act as a windbreak.  We had an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands where we were, in Doolin, Co. Clare.  The campground was lovely, with nice clean facilities, a little store, and nice people.  We were ready to enjoy ourselves.

Maura – still wired from the day – ran around laughing as the menfolk put up the tent.  We got things arranged inside and were all set to get kids down for the night when we made a new discovery – Maura didn’t want to go inside the tent.  At all.  Like getting near the entrance made her scream.  We tried luring her in.  Finally Josh picked her up and carried her in.   She claimed the big lantern and let us change her into pj’s and finally got in her sleeping bag.  Where she spent the next hour or so trying to keep everyone awake.  Finally I laid down next to her and she settled down and finally went to sleep.  Which meant I got to lay down and try to sleep.

It was all right at first.  Nearby, a guy had a guitar and was going through Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits, which was nice.  But then the wind picked up and started rattling the tent.  Which sounded like kids rustling or Maura trying to escape.  The night wore on, the wind picked up more, buffeting the tent.  At one point, I thought “Oh good, it’s raining.  Now we’ll find out how waterproof the tent is.”  And then tossed a bit more.  At one point, Sean woke up very confused and wet because the tent leaked and he was laying in a puddle.  He changed and found a dryer spot to lay in.  Eventually I started to wonder  if I had fallen asleep at all.  I did at one point because I had a really strange dream.  Then Miriam woke up because the tent kept hitting her every time the wind gusted (so every ten seconds) and also had to use the bathroom.  That’s when I discovered that our air mattress was losing air.  Which explained why my hip was numb. Eventually, I saw daylight beginning to emerge, and I was grateful that the night was finally ending.

Maura woke up bright and early at like 6:00 am – tops.  Wide awake.  Our resident early bird Sean also woke up about that time.  It was still raining and blowing and we began to discover wet spots.  Josh, being the awesome husband that he is, refilled the air mattress for me and took Sean and Maura with him to the store to buy breakfast while I finally slept for two hours.

When I woke up again, the weather had, impressively, gotten more miserable.  It was full on raining and we made more discoveries of puddles in the tent.  Like where ever a child had put a jacket, there was a puddle around it.  In an effort to try to make things better, we re-angled the tent, re-staked it, took a further step in adding a big rock by each stake, securing lines better, and so on.

And then, as it was still raining, we decided to tour the Doolin Cave, with its big stalactite. Because we thought “hey, it’ll be dry.”  Not really.  We actually got muddier in the cave than outside.  But we had fun. Maura – who was afraid of the tent – had no problem going down 125 steps, through rock tunnels that were barely five feet tall, and go down more stairs in the big cave to see the stalactite.  It helped that the guide – a lovely gentleman – had Maura and I follow him and he cheered her on the whole way with “What a brave girl you are!” and let her steal his flashlight at times.  Miriam was not as thrilled to be in the cave, but did perk up when she heard that film makers want to use it in their films.

The official "kids in front of stalactite" photo


After this, we went to find lunch.  We ended up in a coastal town with – go figure – loads of people surfing the waves that were big because of the weather.  Well, big by Irish surfing standards.  After finding a parking spot, we ventured out in the rain to find lunch.  We did manage a nice lunch, even dessert, then decided to go back to the campsite and try to talk kids into a nap. When we got to the campsite, Josh joked “Oh good, the tent’s still standing.”  I went to the bathroom and came out to find Josh driving up to the facilities building with the kids.

This was not a good sign.

While we were gone, the tent flooded.  As in everything inside it was soaked.  Like the sleeping bags.  We found out later that the tent actually did fall over, and the campground owner’s sons put it back upright.  It was nearly 4 pm and we had a choice to make as to what to do.  We actually toyed with the idea of buying another tent.  See, our big American style tent was nothing like the other ones at the site, with their aerodynamic shapes and many guidelines.  The others were more almost igloo or tunnel in shape (if tunnel is a shape – it is a style of tent here.)  Very wind resistant.  No silly screen at the top that you cover up only to have the cover flap off it as the rain poured in.  But, we were really in the middle of no where, and to buy a tent would be a three hour tour.  Miriam wanted to stay, Collin wanted to go home, Sean said he didn’t care, and Maura was dancing around, clueless to the dilemma.  The parental units were grumpy, and finally, despite me wanted to make the best of it, I realized that no one was happy.  This was supposed to be a fun happy time and everyone was miserable.

It was time to call it quits.

The campground owner was great and refunded our money.  We packed up in record time, threw away the tent, and watched as the sun finally came out.  Josh and I may have cursed over this for a moment.  Luckily, the weather turned to crap quickly again, making us more secure in our decision to cut our losses.  We took a slight detour to show the kids the Burren , which they seemed to enjoy, then started the three hour drive home.

This should have been the end of our story.

but it’s not.

tune in tomorrow for the second part of “why are kids will need therapy”…